TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – A former teacher, who has defied all odds, is sharing her love of literature and her heritage with the community.

Syrena Arevalo-Trujillo opened a brick and mortar book shop, Barrio Books, at Hotel McCoy in the midst of the pandemic.

“I always wanted to be among the books. Either in education or library science or something like that and this was a perfect fit for me,” she said.

It was during Syrena’s time as a sixth-grade teacher that she saw what happened when students couldn’t see themselves in their books.

“They end up not wanting to read or they start failing in school,” she said. “With books with representation, they see themselves in those books and want to become a lifelong learner and reader.”

Her shop sells Latinx and indigenous books to bring people representation within their literature. Her inventory and shelves are stocked with previously-owned items to give them a second chance.

“So much positivity from the community and even people from around the country are so supportive,” she said.

The books in her shop tell many stories, and Arevalo-Trujillo has her own incredible story to share. She had a double lung transplant in 2019.

“I’m very thankful for the donor and their family. Barrio Books would have never happened. This would never be here. I’m living the life I’ve always wanted,” she said.

Now, she’s living out her lifelong dream and contributing to the Hispanic community which is what Hispanic Heritage month is all about.

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